Sunday, December 09, 2007

Which Do You Like?

From Locus magazine's reviewer, Gary Wolfe:

Literary Standards, as a general rule, don't work. From an author's point of view, you can't very well go back and put them in once you've finished the story (though I've heard of student writers trying to this); for editors, they make for unwieldy and imprecise calipers, far less useful than Market Standards; for readers-- well, there's the real problem. Which readers? Those who peer at the ingredients labels, looking for vitamins like characterization, style and structure, or the sensualists looking for flume rides and eyeball kicks, or, at least in our little corner of the map, the epistemological adventurers, who lust after conceptual breakthroughs the way the sensualists lust after disrobings?

That's one way of putting it, if I understand it correctly. I know it's a lazy man who constantly boxes in and categorizes everything in sight, ironic given how speculative fiction never likes coloring within the lines. Still, the above phrase struck me as particularly useful given how I think it's only in speculative fiction that the last category becomes pertinent.

For example, one non-fiction book I've been reading for the past couple of years now is Lewis Hyde's Trickster Makes this World. Despite the slowness of my reading, I'm enjoying my time learning how the Trickster mythos has eased into your collective minds. And each time I dip into it-- no matter how long since my last read-- I'm constantly bombarded with possible story ideas that I have to put it down to think about it. I'm fascinated by the central idea of the trickster figure.

On the other hand, everyone has read at least one vampire story, right? However, it's the new oft-told trope retold that captures my attention, which is why I really appreciate vampire stories like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (not the movie) and Steven Niles' and Ben Templesmith's 30 Days of Night (both the comic and the movie), which I recently watched.

See, it's the newness that makes the whole world spin for us adventurers.

So really: if we put it another way, when you read a story, do you like storytellers, illuminators or toymakers? And if you're a writer, which one are you?

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